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If you are part of the active dating scene, it is natural to come across people with all sorts of personality traits and habits. In the course of things you may find yourself out with an attractive man and woman, only to discover that he/she is a heavy smoker. Or perhaps you have long known your partner to be a heavy smoker and yet don’t mind going out with him/her because of other attractive traits – whatever may be your situation, here are a few things to keep in mind when you are dating someone who’s a heavy smoker.

Does your partner fit the bill?

Before you slot your partner into the heavy smoker group, find out if his/her smoking habits are actually extreme. According to a research paper published in a government resource1, heavy smokers are those who smoke greater than or equal to 25 or more cigarettes a day. Even if you cannot actually count the number of cigarettes your partner is lighting through the day, you can watch out for some aspects typical to heavy smokers. For instance, the research paper mentions that compared with lighter smokers, heavy smokers are significantly more likely to be male, to be age 30 years or older, to smoke their first cigarette of the day within 30 min of waking, to perceive quitting as very difficult, to have little confidence in their ability to quit, to be less likely to report variation in their rate of smoking between work and leisure days, and to be less likely to be employed. If you find most of these traits true of your partner, you can be reasonably sure that you are dating someone who is a heavy smoker.

Danger of passive smoking

Heavy smokers are most likely to be chain smokers as well; if they are getting through twenty cigarettes a day, most probably they are lighting one after another or at least with very short gaps between the two. Under such circumstances, it is likely that when you are on a date together – which can easily stretch to a couple of hours – your partner may be lighting up two or three times at the minimum. If so, you had better be aware of the dangers of passive smoking. In 2004, Researchers from London's St George's Medical School and the Royal Free hospital found passive smoking increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50-60%2. Environment tobacco which people inhale when passive smoking exposes non-smokers to most of the same toxic gases, chemicals and fine particles that smokers inhale directly with tobacco smoke. The particles in the unfiltered smoke that drifts from burning cigarette tips can be finer and more concentrated, meaning that they can be inhaled deeper into the lungs and stay longer in the body of the passive smoker than in the person who is smoking. Obviously, the more time people spend in close company with smokers, the more they are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke and the worse the threat to their health. Naturally, this often means those most at risk are the people smokers care most about - their family and partners. In fact dating may up the risks of passive smoking since it involves frequent exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in enclosed public places– such as hotels and bars. Though there is no guarantee that you will come down with medical conditions associated to passive smoking, it is best to be aware of the hazards of the situation early on.

Dating tips to help you

If you really like this person you are dating and do not want to give up an enjoyable companionship merely because he or she is a smoker, perhaps you can make some adjustments to your dating style so that neither of you are inconvenienced. Your partner can, for the duration of the date, avoid smoking all together or if that is not possible, excuse him/herself to go to a smoking-permitted area to light up. However when planning a date, check beforehand if the movie hall, bar, dance club or restaurant has smoking-permitted areas since most recreational establishments are gradually banning smoking in their premises.

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In order to safeguard your own health, you can ask your date to limit smoking to outside, so no smoking in your apartment or the vehicle, even with the car window open. But know that as soon as you step out of a restaurant, he or she will want to light up. If you don’t want your date to smoke around you, tell him/her to stay a few paces behind or go into a store while he/she lights up.

Most importantly, don’t start smoking just so you can do it together. Don’t compromise your own health just because your date does. At the same time, nagging him/her to quit may be of little help – you already knew that your partner was a heavy smoker before you were dating and now your date may think it is unreasonable of you to expect him/her to change.  However you may encourage and support your partner’s decision to quit. But the initiative to do so must come from him/her. During the process, be patient with him if he/she undergoes withdrawal symptoms and reassure him/her of your love and support.

Carefully consider the future

If you are heading for a relationship with your heavy smoking partner, consider very carefully the health aspects of your situation. Smoking has been directly related to a whole range of diseases ranging from lung cancer to coronary blockages and hypertension. Despite the popular image of a macho guy having a cigarette dangling from his lips, researchers have linked heavy smoking to male impotence and even infertility. Women smokers should not expect to be spared since smoking has a generalized negative impact on the libido. Sexual functioning requires the coordination of several functions in the body. This includes the nervous system – or the process of mental stimulation - working in coordination with hormones, and the vascular system which pumps blood into the muscle tissue that maintains the erection. Smoking can affect all these systems, thereby, leading to reduced sex drive and sexual dysfunction.

Again, the image of a woman with blood-red lips seductively holding cigarette in a slender holder may turn on men, but heavy smoking can actually ruin a person’s appearance. Among all the organs that smoking can harm directly, is also the skin. Put in the simplest way, smoking restricts the oxygen-rich blood supply to the skin cells, thus reducing its ability to regenerate and build new cells. The result is drier skin, more wrinkles and earlier aging as compared to people who don’t smoke. Above all, if you are planning on having a long term relationship and perhaps a family with a woman who is a heavy smoker, consider the fact that smoking in an expectant mother is directly related to a whole range of pregnancy, childbirth and infant health complications. For all these reasons ask yourself if a relationship with a heavy smoker is worthwhile considering he/she may be at higher risk of so many medical conditions.

Even if you are not planning on getting married to your heavy smoking date, spending long hours or moving in with him/her can be detrimental to your own health. People who never smoke but live with a smoker have a 30% greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who never smoke and live with a non-smoker, according to Australian government’s Department of Health and Aging website3. It may be linked to the development of other cancers as well – studies suggest that those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke may be more likely to suffer heart disease, heart attacks and sudden death due to heart failure.

The level of interaction in a relationship is of course quite different from dating but even if you are simply seeing a person who is a heavy smoker, ensure that you are aware of all aspects to the situation and take measures to safeguard your health. In the end though, only your mutual love and commitment will matter. If your date is kind, thoughtful, loving and truly wants to be with you and you feel the same way, you will both find a way to a compromise so you can be together safely.

References:

  1. PubMed.gov - Characteristics of heavy smokers
     
  2. BBC News - Passive smoke risk 'even greater'
     
  3. Australian Government - Department of Health and Ageing - The dangers of passive smoking [.pdf]
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